Limestone bust from a Palmyrene funerary relief; woman wearing fillet adorned with quatrefoil and acanthus patterns and ear-rings having three drops suspended from a horizontal bar; triple necklace of beads and ovoid ornaments; from centre a medallion hanging from which suspend three strands ending in trefoils; three similar trefoils hang from brooches on left shoulder; right hand holds mantle and veil garment; rich bracelet with quatre foil ornament and finger rings; left hand holds spindle and distaff; inscription; 4 ll; cracked or repaired.
Formerly displayed on a wooden base labelled "125204. Bust of Tamma, daughter of Shamshigeram, holding distaff and spindle. Palmyra. Early 2nd century A.D. Limestone". This display label and mid-2nd century date followed by Robert Hoyland in his illustration of the object in 'Arabia and the Arabs' (p.133, pl.18)."Treasures of the World's Cultures: The British Museum after 250 Years" catalogue entry
Memorial portrait bust
Syria, about AD 100-150
M A R Colledge, The Art of Palmyra (London, Thames and Hudson 1976)
The inscription names this woman as Tamma, daughter of Shamshi geram, son of Malku, son of Nashum. The portrait would have accompanied her body in the cemetery at Palmyra, where various types of tombs were built for wealthier citizens: tomb towers of several storeys, single storey house tombs, and underground rock-hewn tombs. All the tombs contained compartments set in the walls to hold the remains of the dead. Each compartment was sealed with a plaque bearing a sculptural portrait of the deceased and a brief dedicatory inscription.
The merchant families of Palmyra, which lay on the border between the Roman and Persian worlds, displayed their wealth in life and death. Tamma is surrounded by the splendour of her worldly possessions, a testament to her success in life, and holds a spindle and distaff, possibly symbols of her household position. The Palmyrenes adopted with enthusiasm the Roman tradition of individual portraiture.
These stone faces, representing Roman Syrians, who lived between about AD 50-270, come from tombs outside the city of Palmyra. Their fashions are Syrian but they are shown in realistic Roman style.
There were three types of tombs, all built for wealthy citizens: single-storey house tombs, tomb towers of several storeys and underground rock-hewn tombs.
Inside, each tomb contained rows of compartments set into the walls to hold the remains of the dead. Each was sealed with a plaque bearing a stone portrait of the dead person accompanied by a brief inscription.